Global pension systems and their reform: Worldwide drivers, trends and challenges


  • The article has profited from presentations of earlier drafts in Washington DC, Vienna, Kuala Lumpur and Chengdu, from comments and suggestions received, in particular from Mark Dorfman, David Robalino, Peter Rosner and two anonymous referees, and from editing support by Amy Gautam. The usual caveat applies.

Address for correspondence: Robert Holzmann, Social Security Research Institute, Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; E-mail:


Across the world, pension systems and their reforms are in a constant state of flux driven by a shifting focus, moving reform needs, and a changing enabling environment that reflect objective events but also changes in views and perception. The ongoing worldwide financial crisis and the adjustment to an uncertain “new normal” will make future pension systems different from past ones. The objectives of this article are: i) to briefly review recent and ongoing key changes that are triggering reforms; ii) to outline the main reform trends across pension pillars over the last two decades; and iii) to present key policy areas on which the pension reform community will need to focus to make a difference.